FISHERMEN along the Teesside and North Yorkshire coast will stage a protest over the lack of support for their livelihoods as dead sea life continues to wash up on the shores.

People from Hartlepool, Redcar, Scarborough and Whitby will travel to South Gare beach on Thursday morning and sail from a dredge spoil site located two miles offshore to the River Tees.

They are due to display banners, flares and flags in protest of the crisis, which was first reported in October 2021, and have issued a stark warning declaring “if the sea dies we died”. Activists from local organisations including Surfers Against Sewage, Ocean Rebellion and British Divers Marine Life Rescue are due to attend.

DEFRA, a government department, concluded that a naturally occurring harmful algal bloom was the most likely cause of the incident after an investigation between October-December 2021. It ruled out other causes such as chemical pollution, sewage, animal disease, and dredging.

The Northern Echo:

Read more: Mysterious killer continues to wipe out North East sea life

However, a contradictory review of the evidence published by independent consultant, Tim Deere-Jones, claims it was more likely to be the chemical Pyridine which was found by the Environment Agency in high levels within dead sea-life. The consultant and local fishermen believe the cause of the mass deaths is because of 250,000 tonnes of dredged sediment in the River Tees.

The campaigners are calling for the investigation to be reopened and conducted by independent scientists working alongside DEFRA, and an immediate halt on dredged material disposal at sea until the investigation is completed.

The Northern Echo: Fishermen to stage protest on River Tees over disputed deaths of sea lifeFishermen to stage protest on River Tees over disputed deaths of sea life

Joe Redfern, co-founder of Whitby Lobster Hatchery, a Marine Biologist and chairman of Whitby commercial fishing association said: "It is deeply concerning. The catch rates have dropped, there is no life in the rock pools, there are dead and dying marine animals washing up and in out pots.

“We are facing a huge ecological disaster. DEFRA must reopen the case and take it very seriously "

Edith Reeve, area representative for Surfers Against Sewage and a keen sea swimmer, said she has stopped swimming in the North Sea off the Teesside coast due to the dangers it poses.

"I am concerned for the health of the thousands of people who enjoy our waters and beaches for recreation and sports,” she said.

Chairman of Whitby commercial fishing association, James Cole, said: "We have nothing against the Freeport and the jobs it will create. We just want the construction work to be done in a way that doesn't destroy our environment and way of life. Yes to the Freeport, no to the killing.”  

The Northern Echo:

Ben Houchen has been criticised over the issue, with many believing work for the new Freeport development could be responsible for the chemicals. But the Mayor has vehemently denied that any dredging has taken place on his behalf. The new £100m South Bank quay project has not involved any dredging yet and wouldn’t for “quite some time”, he said. 

“I want to once again make it clear that no dredging of the River Tees has taken place at the Teesworks site, or in respect of the Teesside Freeport, at any point,” he told The Northern Echo.

However, dredging has taken place by “The Orca” – a 79-metre dredger weighing more than 3,000 tonnes - on behalf of PD Ports at the mouth of the river.

Read more: Who is behind River Tees dredging - and is it causing marine life deaths in the North Sea?

The campaigners are also calling for an overhaul of the current “inadequate licensing policy” controlled by the Marine Monitoring Organisation and full transparency from officials investigating the crisis.

A statement added: “All involved wish it to be known that the regeneration of Teesport and the intended increase in jobs and business within the region is to be welcomed, encouraged and celebrated.

“However, this must not result in the destruction of our inshore waters and subsequent loss of hundreds of historic livelihoods and the death of an entire marine ecosystem.”

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Teesside Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or contact 01325 505054